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NBA Capsules

NBA Capsules

LOS ANGELES (AP) Chris Paul had 30 points and 13 assists, Blake Griffin added 24 points, and the Los Angeles Clippers led all the way in beating the Lakers 107-102 on Friday night.

Kobe Bryant scored 38 points and Dwight Howard had 21 points and 15 rebounds for the Lakers, who lost for the second time this season to their Staples Center co-tenants.

Bryant carried the Lakers in the fourth quarter when they closed to 99-97 on his 23-foot jumper with 1:29 left. But Paul scored the Clippers' final eight points to seal the victory and drop the Lakers two games below .500. The Clippers lead the Lakers by 10 games in the standings.

The Lakers continue to struggle under new coach Mike D'Antoni. They've lost three of their past four games.

The Clippers shot 50 percent and dominated the paint, 52-36.

Bryant scored 16 points in the fourth, when the Lakers rallied from 19 points down. The Clippers fouled for much of the final 5:51. Howard missed two free throws but then made two to get the Lakers within four before Bryant's jumper left them trailing 99-97.

BULLS 96, HEAT 89

MIAMI (AP) - Carlos Boozer scored 27 points and Chicago dominated on the boards to become only the third visiting team to win in Miami this season.

Chicago outrebounded Miami 48-28. The Bulls had 19 offensive rebounds to four for the Heat.

The Eastern Conference-leading Heat fell to 15-3 at home. Their other home losses came against the Knicks and Warriors.

Miami's LeBron James scored 30 points, extending his streaks of scoring at least 20 points to 31 consecutive games this season, and 52 games in a row overall when including last year's playoff run. He has scored at least 25 in eight consecutive games.

The first meeting between the teams this season was a bruiser, and the Bulls repeatedly outfought and outfoxed Miami on the boards. The Heat had won four games this season when outrebounded by 15 or more, but this time the disparity beat them.

NETS 115, WIZARDS 113, 2OT

WASHINGTON (AP) - Joe Johnson's jumper with 0.7 seconds left in the second overtime lifted Brooklyn over Washington.

Bradley Beal's two free throws tied the score at 113 with 9.1 seconds to play before Johnson, who had 18 points, hit the shot that improved Brooklyn to 4-1 under interim coach P.J. Carlesimo.

Brook Lopez had 27 points and 13 rebounds for the Nets, and Deron Williams added 24 points and 10 assists.

Beal had a career-high 24 points. Jordan Crawford scored 23 points and Nene, who fouled out in the first overtime, had 20 for Washington, which lost its fourth in a row and is now 4-27.

After Martell Webster's jumper gave the Wizards a 106-104 lead to begin the second overtime, Gerald Wallace made a layup and Keith Bogans converted a three-point play and a layup for a 111-106 lead with 3:21 to play.

Beal hit a 3-pointer as the first overtime ended to tie the score at 104. It was the second time Washington extended the game at the horn. Nene hit a hook shot to tie it at 93 in regulation.

THUNDER 109, 76ERS 85

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Russell Westbrook scored 27 points, Kevin Durant added 26 and Oklahoma City bounced back from a rare home loss to beat Philadelphia.

Oklahoma City made eight of its first 10 3-point attempts in the second half and never trailed after scoring the final five points before halftime.

Serge Ibaka chipped in 15 points and 10 rebounds and Kevin Martin had 16 points off the bench for the Thunder, who haven't lost consecutive home games since dropping two of the first three to start the 2010-11 season.

Nick Young led Philadelphia with 21 points, and Jrue Holiday had 15 points and nine assists. The Sixers fell to 2-5 on their eight-game road trip, which started before Christmas and concludes Saturday night at San Antonio.

CAVALIERS 106, BOBCATS 104

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - Kyrie Irving scored 33 points, including a pull-up jumper from the foul line with one second left, to lift Cleveland over Charlotte.

Irving had 14 of his team's final 16 points and 26 points in the second half as the Cavaliers snapped a three-game losing streak.

Irving was 10 of 21 from the field and converted all 10 free throws while scoring 16 points in the fourth quarter. He also had six assists and five rebounds.

Tristan Thompson added 19 points and C.J. Miles added 18 for the Cavaliers.

Ben Gordon led Charlotte's second-half charge, finishing with 27 points.

Ramon Sessions added 20 points and Gerald Henderson had 17, including a career-high four 3-pointers for the Bobcats, who have lost 19 of 20.

CELTICS 94, PACERS 75

BOSTON (AP) - Kevin Garnett scored 18 points before he was ejected for a flagrant foul in the fourth quarter, and the Celtics snapped a four-game losing streak.

Rajon Rondo added 18 points, seven assists and five rebounds for Boston, which had lost eight of 10 to fall a season-worst three games below .500. Garnett also had seven rebounds.

Tyler Hansbrough scored 19 points and David West and Roy Hibbert had 10 rebounds apiece for the Pacers. The Central Division leaders had won six of seven and nine of 11.

The Celtics used a 17-3 run in the second quarter to take control of the game.

PISTONS 85, HAWKS 84

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) - Austin Daye had a season-best 20 points and Detroit earned its fourth consecutive victory.

The Hawks, who trailed by as many as 19, had the ball in the final seconds, but Andre Drummond blocked Lou Williams' jumper at the buzzer to preserve the win.

The Pistons have won six of seven overall, with the only loss coming in double overtime at Atlanta. The second unit has powered the surge, outscoring the starters in several games, and the reserves outscored Atlanta's backups 41-14, led by Daye.

Josh Smith had 20 points for Atlanta, while Al Horford had 18 points and 15 rebounds.

TRAIL BLAZERS 86, GRIZZLIES 84

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) - Wesley Matthews scored 21 points, J.J. Hickson added 19 points and 11 rebounds, and Portland beat Memphis.

Rudy Gay's jumper from near the top of the key was off the mark, allowing the Trail Blazers to escape a closely played game that saw nine ties and 21 lead changes.

LaMarcus Aldridge had 15 points and 12 rebounds for Portland, while Nicolas Batum and Damian Lillard added 11 points apiece, Lillard also handing out eight assists.

Marreese Speights had a season-high 22 points and 13 rebounds for the Grizzlies in place of Zach Randolph, who missed the game with flu-like symptoms. Gay had 19 points, but was 8 of 21 from the field.

Marc Gasol scored 12 points and had a career-best eight blocks. Darrell Arthur contributed 10 points off the Memphis bench.

KINGS 105, RAPTORS 96

TORONTO (AP) - DeMarcus Cousins scored a season-high 31 points and matched his career high with 20 rebounds, John Salmons scored eight of his 20 points in the fourth quarter and Sacramento beat Toronto.

Jason Thompson scored 14 points and Isaiah Thomas had 11 as the Kings won their second straight road game. Sacramento had gone 1-13 away from home before winning at Cleveland on Wednesday.

The Kings have won six of eight overall following their second five-game losing streak of the season.

Kyle Lowry scored 24 and Ed Davis had 11 points and 13 rebounds for the Raptors, who came in having won eight of nine and a season-best five straight at home.

Alan Anderson scored 20, DeMar DeRozan had 14 and Jose Calderon added 13 for the Raptors.

JAZZ 87, SUNS 80

PHOENIX (AP) - Al Jefferson scored 21 points and Paul Millsap added 19 to lead Utah past slumping Phoenix.

Gordon Hayward added 14 points off the bench for the Jazz, who have won consecutive games for the first time since Dec. 5-12.

Utah was without center Enes Kanter, who sprained his right ankle in a win Wednesday against Minnesota.

Marcin Gortat had 18 points and 11 rebounds for Phoenix. Goran Dragic added 17 points, but only six after the first quarter.

ROCKETS 115, BUCKS 101

MILWAUKEE (AP) - James Harden scored 29 points to lead Houston over Milwaukee.

Harden shot 11 of 18 from the floor to go with seven assists and four steals for Houston, which has won 10 of its last 13 games.

The Rockets, who shot 54 percent from the field, also got 22 points from Carlos Delfino in his return to Milwaukee. He played for the Bucks from 2009-12 before signing with Houston as an unrestricted free agent in the offseason.

The Rockets' Jeremy Lin was taken to the locker room with 10:34 left in the third after the left side of his head was slightly bloodied after he collided with the right cheek of Milwaukee's Larry Sanders as the two scrambled for a loose ball near half court. He returned to the bench with just under 3 minutes left in the period and started the fourth quarter.

Milwaukee equaled a season worst by losing its third game in a row despite 16 points from Brandon Jennings.

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Eliminated from playoffs, Wizards hope to make gains in other ways

Eliminated from playoffs, Wizards hope to make gains in other ways

The Wizards arrived in Orlando with dual goals, to make the play-in tournament and to use the extra games to develop their young players. Now that they are eliminated from playoff contention, the second one has come fully into focus.

Really, it was their most important goal all along. Though they had an opportunity to make the postseason, and publicly stated their hope of qualifying, they had no illusions of their chances, especially with Bradley Beal and Davis Bertans opting not to go. 

Surely they wanted to do better than they have so far. With their loss to the Pelicans on Friday night, the Wizards have lost all eight of their games in the bubble: five regular season games that count and three others during their warm-up exhibition schedule.

It was been an ugly showing in terms of wins and losses, no doubt. But the returns in the player development department have been solid. 

"Coming down here, that was our goal: get involved in the play-in game. We didn’t reach that, but we also had other goals to develop and keeping getting better and keep playing the brand of basketball we want to play," head coach Scott Brooks said. "We’ve done a lot of good things."

Troy Brown Jr. and Thomas Bryant have made the most of the experience. Brown is averaging 16.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 5.2 assists while handling more ball-handling duties than he usually does. Bryant has been a force on both ends, averaging 20.2 points, 9.8 rebounds and 2.2 blocks while shooting 53.2 percent from the field and 40 percent from three (5.0 3PA).

RELATED: 5 TAKEAWAYS FROM WIZARDS LOSS TO PELICANS

The rest of the team has been a mixed bag. But young players like Jerome Robinson, Isaac Bonga, Moe Wagner and Admiral Schofield are getting more minutes than ever and are being allowed to play through their mistakes.

The mistakes, though, could be less forgivable than they appear. Brooks dropped a reminder of another reason why the Wizards feel their time in Orlando is valuable.

"Our job is to keep evaluating before next season starts who’s going to be with us and who’s not," Brooks said.

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Next year, the Wizards will have some collection of these guys but whomever is kept will be asked to perform under more pressure, for a team with bigger goals. Once Beal reunites with John Wall, it will be playoffs or bust.

The guys who will return need to work the kinks out now because the coaching staff and front office will have no choice but to be less lenient in their decisions. Barring a trade, Bryant should be back and installed as an important piece. He understands what he is preparing for.

"It’s difficult because everyone wants to win," he said. "But sometimes you’ve gotta look at the bigger picture of how things are going to work out."

The Wizards will now get their toughest tests yet with their final three games in Orlando all coming against teams with top-10 records in the NBA. They see the Thunder, Celtics and Bucks to close things out.

There may not be much on the line in terms of the standings, but the Wizards' young prospects will get to try their hand at the league's best. Whether they can leave the bubble with a victory is now a real question.

"This is my rookie season and I want to finish strong. Hopefully we can win a game," Rui Hachimura said.

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It's been fun, but the NHL should not stick with the 2020 playoff format

It's been fun, but the NHL should not stick with the 2020 playoff format

This was going to be the year to experiment. No matter what, the 2020 postseason was going to be different. The coronavirus dictated that. The NHL should be applauded for thinking outside the box and trying different things this year, but when the league looks forward to the next season and beyond, let's not get nuts.

The 2020 postseason format has been great given the time we are living in and the adjustments that had to be made, but no, the NHL should not adopt this postseason format going forward, regardless of how fun it has been.

Let's be clear, the regular NHL's playoff format is bad. This is in no way a defense of the nonsensical divisional format which sets up the same matchups over and over and over again and punishes teams in good divisions. A wild card format so complicated you can't explain it to a casual fan? Having the two best teams in a division play in the second round even if they are the two best teams in the conference? Blech. It's terrible. The 2020 postseason format, however, is not a good alternative.

RELATED: POSSIBLE PLAYOFF OPPONENTS FOR CAPS COMING INTO FOCUS

Look, I get it. The best-of-five series are fun! The best-of-seven series can feel drawn out by comparison. In a best of five, every game feels really important!

When the NHL was presenting its plan for the 2020 postseason, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman was asked about why the league elected not to shorten some of the playoff series to best-of-five as well and he said the players advocated not to do that so as not to cheapen the Stanley Cup. It takes 16 wins to win the Cup. Period. Even in a pandemic.

The NBA used to have best-of-five series in the first round and that made sense because a lot of those first-round matchups were garbage. The NBA does not have nearly the same level of parity as the NHL and the top teams almost always advanced with little drama at all. The first round of the NHL playoffs is fantastic and full of upsets. There's no reason to fast-forward through those series and play fewer games because those series are compelling.

OK, so keep the four-round, best-of-seven format. What about a play-in best of five series?

First, you can't have 24 teams out of 31 (soon to be 32) reach the postseason. For a league that wants its fans and players to care about an 82-game season, having 24 teams make the playoffs renders the regular season nearly meaningless. The only reason the NHL extended the postseason out to 24 teams this year is because the league canceled the end of the regular season and those bottom teams did not have a chance to make a final push for the playoffs like we see every year. There's no reason to extend the field in a normal season.

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While there are few who would advocate expanding the playoffs to 24 teams, there is a case to be made for adding one or two more teams per conference and having a play-in. Even that, to me, is a step too far. When the league expands to 32 teams, exactly half of them will make the playoffs. Do we really need more than that? It's easy to get excited about that prospect now in the midst of the postseason when the level of play is at its best and interest is at its peak, but let's think about the real dog days of the season in January and February. Would devaluing the regular season by adding more teams to the playoff make those January and February games when the season starts to drag more fun to watch or less? We all know the answer to that question.

And, by the way, all of the support to change the playoffs is a reaction to the qualifying series. We haven't seen what this postseason will look like when the playoffs actually get started. Will the round-robin teams end up at a disadvantage when they face off against teams that already played in a do-or-die series? Will injuries become even more rampant in the always grueling postseason because of those teams playing an extra round? It certainly seems like the proponents of adopting the 2020 postseason format are all being quick to declare this a success before seeing how everything ultimately plays out.

The best-of-five series are fun, but this year is different. It's OK to let 2020 be its own success and move on. The only thing the NHL needs to do is get rid of the awful divisional format, take the top eight teams from each conference and re-seed after each round. This year is different. Let's not pretend we need all these changes when life returns to normal.

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